Students' perceptions of sexual harassment: Is it harassment only if the offender is a man and the victim is a woman?

The present study investigated 3 potential sources of variability in university students' perceptions of sexual harassment in hypothetical professor-student scenarios: raters' gender, gender of the professor and student, and rater's own sexual harassment. Participants were most likely to identify the interactions as harassment when they involved a male offender and a female victim. They were less likely to label the behaviors as harassment when they occurred between members of the same gender or between a female professor and a male student. Women were more open to viewing the scenarios as harassment and men were unlikely to view the interations between a female professor and a male student as harassment. Personal history of sexual harassment did not influence participants' perceptions.
Author: 
Runtz,Marsha G.
O'Donnell,Cedar W.
Reprint Status: 
IN FILE
Start Page: 
963
End Page: 
982
Journal/Periodical Name: 
Journal of Applied Social Psychology
Volume: 
33
Issue: 
5
Abstract: 
Studies on sexual harassment have shown that men and women do not view sexual harassment the same. Women are much more likely to identify sexual harassment than men are. The current study aims to determine the influence that gender and past sexual assault victimization has on the perception of sexual harassment. A total of 241 undergraduate students were asked to provide information about their past sexual harassment experiences and then asked to rate to what extent they rated several different scenarios as exhibiting sexual harassment. Results indicate that women were more likely than men to identify sexual harassment. That is, men were significantly less likely to view interactions between a female professor and a male student as exhibiting sexual harassment than women participants. Participants were more likely to identify sexual harassment in scenarios where the offender was a man and the victim a woman. Past sexual harassment experiences did not significantly impact the participants' perceptions of sexual harassment. Results of this study imply that men and women hold different views of what constitutes sexual harassment. The study further recognizes the need for education and training in the prevention of sexual harassment victimization and perpetration.
Topic Areas: 
College, Harassment, Male-Female Relations
Reference Type: 
JOUR
Reference ID: 
1980
Publication Date: 
2003